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MIAMI – The Fantastic Voyage 2019 kicked off Sunday night on the Carnival Magic with a music legend – the iconic Janet Jackson. She joined the Voyage to kick off the 2019 cruise and Deck Party, which marked the start of this year’s Party With a Purpose. Jackson, dressed in baggy black sweatpants, a baseball cap, a white artfully ripped T with a black T underneath and black combat boots, whipped through selections from over her three-decade career with the help of some talented dancers.

Jackson started off thanking Tom Joyner for the invitation and for all the accomplishments of his lengthy career and began her set with “Any Time, Any Place,” which she’d heard was among his favorites of her songs. Janet then went into the memorable songs from her own heralded career. Jackson’s song choices included “I Get So Lonely,” ‘Got Til It’s Gone,” “The Pleasure Principle”  “Nasty””You Want This” “If” and “No Sleep” that ran the gamut from her hit 1986 second album Control to her last, 2015’s Unbreakable.

She also paid homage to her late father Joe Jackson during “Together Again,” while rare pics of her and her father and some never before seen shots of him as a young man played on a video screen behind her. Her brother Michael, whose legacy has been battered by the controversial Leaving Neverland documentary, was also represented when Jackson performed a portion of their duet “Scream” with the acclaimed black and white video playing on the big screen.

Scarface, Bun B, DJ Kool, and the Geto Boys represented the Dirty South with a surprise appearance after Janet’s show. Doug E. Fresh jumped onstage as well as the acts went through a medley of some of their biggest hits including The Geto Boys classic “Mind Playing Tricks On Me.”

Comedy, gospel, and R&B were well represented as shows continued around the ship. George Wallace headlined a packed show in the ship’s comedy club, while Shirley Caesar made a joyful noise at the Gospel Explosion. Kirk Franklin, though, moved the crowd as the night’s final gospel performer, going through his massive catalog of hits like “Smile” “His Eyes Were On The Sparrow” and “Stomp.” The crowd sang along to every note as Kirk danced, sang, played piano and joked with the audience as the consummate professional he is.

“Represent Night” meant that everyone was reppin’ their city, state, HBCU, sorority or fraternity, sports team, family, or anything else they wanted to showcase. The party took place in the Atrium, which is at the center of the ship and it got started with some of the nation’s top deejays like Philly’s DJ Touchtone. Famed turntabalists DJ Hurricane and Cut Creator are on board as well. We saw representation from just about every city we expected (New Orleans, Dallas) and some we didn’t (Seattle, Alberta, Canada.)

The evening’s latest show was The Ladies of Hip-Hop, which included The Lady of Rage, Sweet Tee, Sunshine Anderson, Adina Howard, 702, Oaktown’s 357 and MC Lyte. If you could hang until the late hour – the show was scheduled to start at 2 a.m.- you got your nostalgia on with some vintage hits.

Lady of Rage, who had some health issues in the past year, thanked Tom Joyner for his support and let the audience know that she was doing much better. Though she said she was still not at 100%, although you couldn’t’ tell from her energetic set. She debuted a dynamic spoken word piece she was working on that focused on female empowerment and self-love. Ageless group 702 made the audience sing along with their 90’s hit ‘Where My Girls At?” while one of New York City’s female rap pioneers Sweet Tee rhymed her classic hit “It’s My Beat.”

Howard, who said she’s now 45 and still looking forward to hitting her sexual prime, brought two lucky husbands onstage to get lap dances from her curvaceous dancers (with their wives’ full permission) and of course, performed her hit “Freak Like Me.” At that point, it was time for me and many others who were nodding or already asleep to head out, though headliner MC Lyte was still on the way.

That’s how it goes on the Fantastic Voyage, you can try to do it all, but there’s just too much to do and you’ve got to try to get a little beauty sleep because the day starts again at 7 a.m. We’ll have the daily updates for you right here so keep checking back!

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